Aaron takes some time to tell us all about his adventures pushing thousands of miles across the globe and his dream job working for Rayne Longboards. Enjoy!
Hey Aaron, where are you from?
Hi Gbemi, I was born in a really small pueblo called Strathmore, Alberta. I lived on a farm outside Standard, AB, and I think it was a Danish settlement, thus my Danish last name. I moved to Calgary at the age of 5 and lived there for the most part till recently.
When did you start skating?
I was trying to ollie at the age of 12. Then when I turned 14, I moved to California for 1 year and started ripping short decks to shreds. Then moved back to Canada and decided it was way too cold to keep skating year round. Then for some mysterious reason I got into Dirtsurfing at 17, which led me to Longboarding. But if you go look up Dirtsurfer, you will find many videos I contributed riding to. Not editing though haha, some bad edits out there so watch it!
What is dirtsurfing?
It is like strapping a bike to your ankles. A metal frame, with two 20’ bike wheels in line, and a platform to stand, with foot straps and a disc brake. It looks like you’re trying to commit suicide. I remember dropping in on the crest of a big hill and someone yelling out their car ‘’your mother loves you’’.
How does surfing dirt lead you to ride long skateboards?
Paskapoo DH was the first race I rode in (dirtsurfer), that’s when I first saw what longboarding actually was. I won Paskapoo too! Though on a dirtsurfer, (second time 2nd place).
You’re also a Paskapoo kid!
Dude, Paskapoo gave birth to me. At least the adrenaline junky side of me.
Paul was the first skater you met?
Paul stood out as a guy I wanted to get to know. I held a Calgary Skate Halloween party in my backyard because I had a half pipe one day, we had a keg, it was super great, Paul and I realized we were both musicians so we decided to get together to Jam. This lead into us starting a skate shop called Coma Sports (worst name for a business ever).
What instrument do you play?
I play mostly nylon string guitar, and I recently picked up a Charango from Bolivia. 10 strings!
How long after starting to longboard did you start the shop?
Like 20 minutes. lol like hmmm I had a longboard but rode not too often. It was never a ‘’put a helmet on and go down a hill’’ type of thing until I started the shop.
Why did you decide to start the shop?
I had a business opportunity to split retail space with the owner of a shop I was managing. It happened very fast and I went with it.
Is it still going?
No. I closed up shop and bankrupted myself to skate across Peru and Bolivia! I had the decision, should I sell skateboards or be a skateboarder!
What kind of stuff did you ride in the beginning?
First board I had back then was a S9. But our shop carried Rayne and Landyachtz.
What sort of skating makes you happiest?
Skating up hill.
Best hill you’ve skated up?
Well, there was one straightaway in Morocco (most recent episode 9) that you could have booked 120km/hour down. But for sure, nothing beats the Andes, countless roads of seemingly endless inclination.
What do you enjoy about going opposite to the normal direction on a hill?
I actually think I’ll retract that statement that I like skating up hill, after thinking about what you just asked me.
Why in the world did you decide to skate across Peru?
I had a notion that longevity is for suckers heh. Well, Paul was a large influence on my life at the time, he had some pretty cool random wild things going on up in his brain, I thought If I put some effort into his crazy ideas we could get something done. Our rock opera band failed, yet another of the 100 things going through Paul’s brain at that time: Skating Across a country manifested itself.
Had you skated across any cities before you decided to go cross country?
Yeah, Paul and I skated from Calgary to Red Deer, it was a day trip, though we didn’t make it, Paul was bleeding out of his taint after crashing on a curb at Vernon DH the weekend before. He was applying Second Skin(TM) to his choda every ½ hour.
How was your first cross country journey?
There is cross country, and then there is cross a country. My first experience, pushing wood for 2400km with Paul and Adam was like a dream, for many reasons. I put myself into a situation that required more dedication than ever, yet total alienation and a 180 degree change from regular life. You can imagine being 21, and never having journeyed to a country like Peru, not really knowing what to expect, not feeling safe whatsoever, not having the ability to communicate properly, and all of a sudden, realizing that I was capable of doing something outstanding, and surviving in extreme conditions.
Did you enjoy your alienation from regular life?
It was tiring being called a Gringo 10 times a day. Children curiously pointing at you like you’re a funny looking animal, people trying to charge us more than the price on the menu, simple things that were annoying just became a casual routine. But now thinking back, by the end of the trip they became really annoying again and we all would lose our temper regularly haha.
After speaking to the other participants of your ‘’trimily’’, I am highly suspicious. Paul described your time together as a honeymoon.
I’m going to kick his ass next time I see him. No we hooked up with Rob Thompson through Skatefurther (who I had the pleasure of meeting in April this year). He was originally planning the route with Adam C.
Why didn’t the original Rob & Adam trip happen?
Rob had a realization that he needed to settle down a bit after shattering the world record for longest journey by man power. And now he’s married and living in Japan!
What did you enjoy most about this epic first journey?
Waking up to the Andes was no doubt my favorite thing. No matter how much dew and frost was on your tent, or how little sleep you got because it was too cold, rising in the morning and waiting for the sun to peak out of the valley, or over the rugged mountain side and fill you with rays of joy for the new day has left me with the fondest of memories. So simple yet so good. Looking at the photo on the bottom of the Long Treks Demonseed deck reminds me of this specific feeling; the location where that photo was taken was a morning where Paul, Adam and I all waited in the brisk morning, staring at the mountainside like a countdown for the sun rise. When it came it was bliss.
What is Skatefurther?
Skate Further is a forum run by Nat Halliday and Laura Hatwell and others, that connects and publicizes long distance skaters.
Long distance gives you all your jollies?
Definition: Jollies: A lapstraked ship’s boat that is smaller than a cutter, typically hoisted at the stern of a ship.
Yes it gives me those!
Do you do any other types of skating?
I’ve always liked Freeride. I distance raced a bit with Paul at the Rogue Race and King of the Forest. My main thing that sets me apart is riding and playing small instruments. Mostly flat ground with a little G Bm7 C and D.
You play small instruments every time you skate?
I’d be a weirdo if I did. But I’m a wierdo anyways. Does pocket pool count as an instrument?
We have established that the only girls you like to kiss have moustaches and are called Paulina/Adamina!
It seems so the way we wrestle with our shirts off.
What’s your role in the local community?
Selling them Skateboards! Haha but as I’ve decided that competitive riding is not my thing. So going to races and yelling encouraging things at people is the role I’ve taken on.
You’ve never competed?
Rogue Race 2009 (4th Place) King of the Forest 2008 (9th place) Sullivan Challenge (I was obliterated)
What do you ride?
Can you believe I had 9 set ups? And I left them all in Calgary when I moved to Vancouver! Right now Rayne Supreme, Orangatang Baluts! Think I have the same trucks on there I skated across Morocco (Paris) lol. I’ve got my eyes set on some Gunmetals and Calibers for the near future. What do you recommend?
Why did you move?
I moved because Calgary is at times the 2nd coldest city in the world, and my family all left me there to freeze. So I followed them out to BC, it was inevitable, had to happen.
Are any of those companies your sponsors?
Well, considering I work for Rayne full time they are pretty much my sponsor. Otang and I are still friends with benefits, but because I’m not pursuing big things right now in terms of professional riding, its not necessary that I have sponsors.
What are you pursuing right now?
Right now I’m saving up money to go to school, studying Spanish, playing latin music and folk music with a few musicians in town. I’m pursuing keeping my pet Water Dragon (Elvis) alive after he tried to drown himself the other night. Crazy Elvis.
How did you get involved with Rayne?
First selling their boards, then using one of their Dee-lites for Peru and Bolivia, after that I kinda had my foot in the door. They hooked us up for Morocco and I decided they were the board company worthy of my earnest promotion.
Is that all you are: an earnest promoter?
Now I’m a salesman yall! Haha, which is a very earnest way to promote.
When did you go across Bolivia?
2009 January, landed in Peru.
How did you Bolivia trip differ from Peru?
These two Countries share the Andes, and the history of the Inca. Peru has coastline, therefore you see more diversity in respects to lifestyles and coastal food. Peru has more of a thriving economy from what I know, both are very indigenous, but Bolivia is much less industrialized, maintaining their beautiful and natural lifestyle of chewing coca and living in the high planes (Alto Plano).
You chewed coca?
I still chew Coca! Coca is a very mild narcotic, but super rich in nutrients, I recommend checking it out, if you can find some, mix it with baking soda to alkalize it and get all the positive effects. Super magical herb referred to as the ‘’Divine Leaf of Immortality’’. Its a shame that Cocaine has put such a bad rep on it.
You get your jollies from coca leaves!
And kissing ladies with moustaches named Adam and Paul.
How does it affect your skating?
Chewing coca? I never skated while chewing it. I wish I did in Peru, I could have had a lot more energy at high altitude.
What is special about La Paz?
It is the most indigenous city I’ve ever been to, and the highest altitude Capital City in the world. Its geography is incredibly steep and the houses seem to be built on a 45 degree angle. Because of this, there is only one road into the city. Check out Episode 13/14 in Peru. We skate down the only entrance into the city competing with the traffic, we chose to do it at 6am so there would be less traffic to deal with, it was sketch balls of fire.
Have you done any other trips since Peru & Bolivia?
There was one trip to Argentina and Uruguay for 2 months to watch Tango and eat empanadas. I organized a little skate jam with The Good People in Buenos Aires and 130 people showed up, 20 competitors battled it out for my Tan Tien. Nico Aon, super talented local skater won it!
That’s pretty rad, how did you get so involved with the Argentine scene?
The guys at Loaded hooked me up with The Good People. I hung out in their office, made friends with a bunch of Boludos and talked Boludeses until la madrugada with all those guys. They organized a critical mass of 600 parading down the streets of Buenos Aires. Pretty much the right people to get involved with down there: the Good People.
What has been the best?
Hmmm, favoriting is hard you know? I had an amazing time this last weekend at the Seawall push organized by Bricin Lyons. Super rad skate around Stanley park with a few hundred other LB’ers. But I guess conquering gigantic mountains is the ‘greatest’ skate experiences in the literal sense of the word. Let me think for a second with my eyes closed and my computer screen blacked out. I can say that truly making the aspirations in your life happen, like working so hard to make Morocco become a reality was the ‘’best’’ skate experience of my life. Just Paul, Adam and I pulled that trip together and I remember the first 3 days on the road having a party fiesta style excitement . Bringing back all the feelings of South America, knowing the challenges, but then the spontaneity in the nature of traveling like that. You bring a lot of attention to yourself, and receive a lot of bewilderment from people. We had constant offers to skitch on peoples motorcycles, taking photos with families, laughing at each other. And then after about 1-2 weeks the reality set in and we turned into Mules! Dirty sun burnt miserable mules.
How did you make Morocco happen?
Well to be honest, it almost didn’t, Adam kinda set his dates for a trip and just hoped that Paul and I could get it together, I started dreaming up a few ideas and organized with charity to do a dollar a kilometer, the charity gave us some real insight to how to doctor up a sponsorship proposal, and using our Peru Bolivia documentary we were able to reach the a huge portion of the backpacking/skateboarding community and raise the funds for our trip. It was so much work though! Money don’t ever come easy, and many people don’t know that Peru&Bolivia were done entirely by personal investment. We paid for everything we had, and earned the second trip, it was all about making sponsors share the vision and see the potential. If you can’t get your true vision across, you’re shit out of luck.
What charity did you do the skate for?
We originally were doing it for a charity called Wellspring, they had a community and resource building for cancer patients and their families to come and be at ease, be taken care of in various ways. Then the lady who was our lead contact there was fired haha, so at the last minute, we did a charity switch to Art A La Carte, who does outreach to cancer patients and donates artwork to patients hospital bedrooms. It was short notice, monetarily we didn’t reach our goal, yet we brought them tons of exposure through Local TV and Newspaper publicizing our efforts.
Who documented the Morocco trip?
Adam Paul and I all filmed, I filmed the least because I’m the easiest to look at. Haha no, every time I touch the camera, Paul would start a fuss about whatever. So I really had a limp one for filming after a few discouraging bouts. He and Adam do great though.
Who sponsored this trip?
Rayne, Orangatang, Paris Trucks, Sporting Sails, Daddies Boardshop, Royal Boardshop, Concrete Wave, Patagonia phew* I’m out of breath and its not a bad thing.
How long did you spend in Morocco?
2 months total.
What was special about this trip?
Morocco was an amazing country to see, such a conglomeration of absolutely many cultures. Arabic, Berber, Spanish, French, and Europe as a whole has all left their trace there. The food was so good compared to small town Peru, but for me it was another learning experience. I really appreciate what I have at home from my travelling.
What was it like facing all that sand?
To be honest, the sand was not ever much of an issue. Maybe on our Camel journey into the dunes. But pavement was a serious issue. To this day I regret skateboarding on such horrible pavement. To all the skateboarders out there in the world who think you’re compromising the true journey by hitchhiking over 100kms of Chipseal pavement (Adam Colton) you are sadly deranged. Suffering is an element of the journey of course, but If I had funded Morocco myself I would not have skated all that chosh-pile pavement, it degraded my moral and made me glad the trip was over. You should never be glad the trip is over!
Was the pavement the hardest obstacle on this adventure?
It was the only obstacle, otherwise Morocco in its months of mild weather would be a long distance skateboard destination.
How many more episodes are there to come?
We’re currently at 9, should be 12, that’s what Adam is thinking. And a post journey interview at Loaded HQ in Culver City that should be pretty fun.
What is the Vancouver community like?
Vancouver skate community seems to be more of a mix of dirty skate hippies than I remember Calgary being. Calgary has more oil and gas skaters haha. I’m just going to shut up now.
How does the skate culture differ?
Its a little more extreme in Vancouver. It is a Mecca of downhill. North shore mountains are 20 minutes. In Calgary you have to travel about 45 min to get a really long 80km/h run. Calgary is all about freeride.
How was last season for you?
Last season was fun, I was in Argentina till May, and then got back and skated with the locals in Calgary a bit, Filmed the Rogue Race (yet to be released), held a really great little race called Midnight Mills, it starts at a tower on top of the skate park, and ends down a windy pathway. I look to hold this race again soon on my trip back to cowtown.
What are your plans for the rest of the season?
Loving life and people! Working at Rayne until I’m a Great Granpa.
Is there anything in particular you love about working at Rayne?
Calling South America on a day to day basis, talking in Spanish, knowing that I’m working for one of the Gnarest companys in skateboarding, watching our team take podiums, meeting all the people that make longboarding what it is. I know Longboarding is currently booming and glamorous and there will be a point where the popularity levels out or shrivels up, but to be here at Rayne and riding the bucking bronco that we’re currently on is a fucking rad experience! I’ve met a lot of great people who live their life to the fullest. Something to be said about longboarders.
Do you have a favourite skate person?
I can name a few of my favorite characters for you. Lets start at Brian, Travis, and Jenica Davenport, I feel like I grew up with these kids and they still live down the street, but that street is from the Pacific to Atlantic sadly.
Les Roberston – This dude is constantly blowing my mind. Endlessly the most charismatic person.
Danky Dean and Jose Guzman – I just met these guys this summer and drank a few Yerba Mate’s with them, they are a hilarious combination.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
Play with my lizard. Lots of music. I’m morphing into a latino slowly but surely. I love singing in Spanish and exploring all the latin rythms. You’ll see I might have a little skate video coming out with a friend from Van. I play, he skates.
What do you call two Latinos playing basketball?
Juan on Juan
Pick 3 numbers between 1 – 39.
man that exlcudes 420 AND 69
1 – 24 – 30
1 – What do you take with you when you go for a skate?
My helmet now that all those Long Treks fans are making noise. Love you guys!
24- Favourite movie?
Cannibal the Musical.
It’s been really fun talking to you tonight Aaron, wish you all the best in your future endeavours, come across the pond and skate with us soon!
Thanks Gbemi, can’t wait to hit some British bitumen and learn how to pronounce your name!
Any thank yous?
Thank you Gbemi. And Laura Hatwell, she is a doll, I love her. Congrats on Otang Embassadorshipnessing Laura!
I love her too.
Back off that lady is mine.
Welcome to Rayne Video
Personal Website not very updated:
My friend taught me his cumbia version of this song:
I filmed and directed this masterpiece
Wear a helmet if you scooter